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Activists, others protest proposed utility fee

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 26, 2014 at 1:02 pm •  Published: July 26, 2014
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Renewable-energy advocates are rallying against a proposed utility fee for Utah residents who have solar panels and wind turbines, saying it could hinder further development of renewable energy.

The group gathered Wednesday to urge officials to vote down a potential surcharge for the Rocky Mountain Power customers. The fee would raise their monthly bill by $4.65, or about $56 a year. Rock Mountain Power officers say the hike is needed to help cover costs for those customers on days when the sun isn't out and the wind isn't blowing.

Activists groups gathered at synagogue Congregation Kol Ami on Wednesday to urge the Utah Public Service Commission to forgo the surcharge.

To date, customers pay a monthly $5 fee that is set to climb to $6 in September. Customers with solar panels or wind turbines still use utility's grid, but they do not pay a monthly $25 fixed cost that traditional customers do.

This puts a greater burden on traditional customers who pay for infrastructure maintenance and grid operation, Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Paul Murphy told the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/1philVv).

But advocacy groups such as UCare and HEAL Utah, as well as religious and business organizations, said Wednesday they feared such a fee would impede development of alternative energy. Others agreed.

"Utah homeowners want and need energy choice. A solar fee hinders that energy choice," said Damien Mora, an energy specialist with Garbett Homes, adding it would discourage Utah residents from investing in solar panels.

Under a new law passed during the legislative session, the board is obligated to fully examine the costs and benefits of net-metering policy, said state Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek.

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